- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2006

The federal government and fitness authorities want 30 percent of U.S. adults to engage in regular training to strengthen their muscles by 2010, but data from a national survey indicates that fewer than 20 percent now do so.

A report published in the July 21 issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report found that the number of adults who perform physical activities two or more times a week to improve muscle strength rose from 17.7 percent in 1998 to 19.6 percent in 2004.

But lead author Judy Kruger, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, and other authors called the improvement “slight” and “far short” of the “national objective” of 30 percent by 2010, a goal set by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Activities such as weightlifting, calisthenics, Pilates, yoga and even stair-climbing are good strength-training exercises, Mrs. Kruger said yesterday.

In 2004, the authors said, 21.9 percent of men and 17.5 percent of women reported performing such activities two or more times a week, the recommended level.

The researchers said this is not acceptable, given the health benefits associated with such activity.

“Adults who engage in strength-training are less likely to experience loss of muscle mass, functional decline and fall-related injuries than adults who do not strength-train,” the authors wrote.

What’s more, they said, previous studies have indicated that inactive seniors who “begin regular strength-training achieve substantial strength gains within a few months.”

The CDC report was based on a six-year analysis of data from the National Health Interview Survey to determine the annual prevalence of strength-training by sex, age group and race/ethnicity.

The CDC study determined that the percentage of women who reported meeting the national strength-training objectives rose from 14.4 percent in 1998 to 17.5 percent in 2004. Mrs. Kruger described that rise as “significant.”

For men, the increase was “not significant,” edging up from 21.2 percent to 21.9 percent during the same period. Nevertheless, “overall strength-training levels among women remained lower than among men,” the report said.

The researchers were disturbed to find that “no progress since 2001” in reported strength-training activity.

Strength-training was “consistently lower” among Hispanics of both sexes and black women, and it was the lowest among the elderly. Even so, people 65 and older “experienced the largest increase [in such activity] overall” during the study period, the report said.

Mrs. Kruger said more strength-training activities need to be offered “in places where adults already pursue leisure-time physical activity, such as schools and community centers.”

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